Posts Tagged ‘Reprisal’

Kazakh Human Rights Defender Yelena Semyonova not allowed to travel to Strasbourg

October 10, 2018

Kazakh rights activist Yelena Semyonova (file photo)
Kazakh rights activist Yelena Semyonova (file photo)

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Emirates: one year later human rights defender Ahmed Mansoor’s whereabouts remain unknown

March 21, 2018

 

The authorities in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) should reveal the whereabouts of prominent human rights defender and citizen-journalist Ahmed Mansoor and release him immediately and unconditionally, an impressive group of over twenty human rights organisations said on 20 March 2018.  This day marks one year since security forces arbitrarily arrested Mansoor, winner of the Martin Ennals Award for Human Rights Defenders in 2015, at his home in Ajman. The UAE authorities have continued to detain him in an unknown location, despite condemnation from UN human rights experts and independent human rights organisations.

The authorities have subjected Ahmed Mansoor to enforced disappearance since his wife last saw him in September 2017. They must reveal his whereabouts to his family and grant him regular access to them and to a lawyer of his choosing.  Following his arrest on 20 March 2017, the authorities announced that he is facing speech-related charges that include using social media websites to “publish false information that harms national unity.”  On 28 March 2017, a group of UN human rights experts called on the UAE government to release Mansoor immediately, describing his arrest as “a direct attack on the legitimate work of human rights defenders in the UAE.” They said that they feared his arrest “may constitute an act of reprisal for his engagement with UN human rights mechanisms, for the views he expressed on social media, including Twitter, as well as for being an active member of human rights organisations.”  Since his arrest, Mansoor has not been allowed to make telephone calls to his family and has been allowed only two short visits with his wife, on 3 April and 17 September 2017, both under strict supervision. He was brought from an unknown place of detention to the State Security Prosecutor’s office in Abu Dhabi for both visits. The authorities have refused to inform his family about his place of detention and have ignored their requests for further visits.

In February 2018, a group of international human rights organisations commissioned two lawyers from Ireland to travel to Abu Dhabi to seek access to Mansoor. The UAE authorities gave the lawyers conflicting information about Mansoor’s whereabouts. The Interior Ministry, the official body responsible for prisons and prisoners, denied any knowledge of his whereabouts and referred the lawyers to the police. The police also said they had no information about his whereabouts. The lawyers also visited Al-Wathba Prison in Abu Dhabi following statements made by the authorities after Mansoor’s arrest, which suggested that he was held being held there. However, the prison authorities told the lawyers there was nobody matching Mansoor’s description in the prison.  Instead of protecting Mansoor, the authorities have detained him for a year with hardly any access to his family and no access to a lawyer of his choosing. Their contempt for human rights defenders and brazen disregard for their obligations under international human rights law is truly shocking. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/02/27/somewhere-in-a-prison-in-the-emirates-is-ahmed-mansoor-but-authorities-claim-not-to-know-where/]

Background to his case is documented in the joint statement and in my earlier posts: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/ahmed-mansoor/

Mansoor is a member of GCHR’s Advisory Board and a member of the advisory committee of Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa Division.

Signed:
Americans for Democracy and Human Rights in Bahrain
Amnesty International
Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI)
ARTICLE 19
CIVICUS
Committee for the Respect of Freedoms and Human Rights in Tunisia
English PEN
Freedom Now, Morocco
Front Line Defenders
Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)
Human Rights First
Human Rights Watch
International Commission of Jurists (ICJ)
International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), under the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
International Service for Human Rights (ISHR)
Maharat Foundation
Martin Ennals Foundation
Moroccan Association for Human Rights
PEN International
Reporters Without Borders
Scholars at Risk
Tunisian Association for Academic Freedoms
Tunis Center for Press Freedom
Tunisian Forum for Economic and Social Rights
Tunisian League for Human Rights (LTDH)
Tunisian Organisation against Torture
Vigilance for Democracy and the Civic State
World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), under the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

http://www.martinennalsaward.org/ahmed-mansoors-remain-missing/

https://www.ifex.org/united_arab_emirates/2018/03/20/uae-ahmed-mansoor-1-year/

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Nargess Mohammadi arrested in Iran

May 6, 2015

Just when one thinks that Iran is going to change for the better, human rights defender Ms. Nargess Mohammadi is arrested (after years of continuous judicial harassment, including repeated summoning, interrogations and trials.)

Several NGOs, including the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (FIDH/OMCT) have strongly condemned the 5 May arrest of Nargess Mohammadi, who is the spokesperson and Vice-President of the Defenders of Human Rights Centre (DHRC). Upon her arrest, the agents claimed that she was being taken “to serve her prison sentence”. [Mrs Mohammadi started to serve a 6-year prison sentence on 21 April 2012, but that she was released on bail on 31 July 2012 for medical reasons.]

On May 3, 2015, Ms. Mohammadi attended the first hearing of her trial based on three main charges against her:

  • “assembly and collusion against the national security” based on her activities in the DHRC and cooperation with “the [Nobel Laureate] Shirin Ebadi, counter-revolutionary and feminist groups”;
  • “spreading propaganda against the State” based on her “interviews with foreign and counter-revolutionary media participation in illegal gatherings, supporting sedition and anti-security inmates”; and
  • “membership of the illegal and anti-security LEGAM group”.

Following a meeting in 2014 with the then High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs & Security Policy, Ms. Catherine Ashton, the Iranian authorities banned Ms. Mohammadi from travelling abroad; she has received 10 summons and has been detained twice by the security agents.

The Observatory strongly condemns arbitrary arrest of Ms. (…).

Posted in FIDH, human rights, Human Rights Defenders, Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, OMCT | Leave a Comment »
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Report on a panel: Counter-terrorism laws must not criminalise human rights defenders

March 17, 2015

I was in Geneva last week where a number of interesting meetings took place. One of the side events I attended (a picture went out on Twitter), concerned the crucial issue of  “ Human rights defenders and national security”, on 9 March organized by a group of NGOs (International Service for Human Rights, Article 19, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Human Rights House Foundation, the International Commission of Jurists and the World Organisation Against Torture).ISHR-logo-colour-high

The panel was moderated by ISHR Director Phil Lynch, and had a very knowledgeable speakers such as Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders; Hina Jilani, Pakistani human rights lawyer and former Special Representative on Human Rights Defenders; Jimena Reyes, Director of the Americas Desk at FIDH; Roselyn Hanzi from Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights; Gerald Staberock, Director of the World Organisation against Torture (OMCT); and Tanele Maseko, human rights defender from Swaziland.
A short report below:
Restrictions on human rights defenders

Phil Lynch opened the discussion by referring to unequivocal examples of restrictions imposed on human rights defenders by the operation of counter-terrorism laws, with examples cited including the recent amendments to the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation Act in Australia which criminalises the disclosure of information about ‘special intelligence operations’, even where such disclosures expose or relate to serious human rights abuses; draft legislation in China which vaguely defines ‘terrorism’ to include ‘thought, speech or behavior’ that is ‘subversive’ or seeks to ‘influence national policy making’, and Law 8/2015, passed recently in Egypt, which allows individuals and associations which ‘infringe public order’ or ‘harm national unity or national security’ to be designated as terrorists. Concern was also expressed that renewed US efforts to combat extremism do not contain adequate human rights safeguards and that the imperative to counter-terrorism is being used as a subterfuge by regimes in allied States – such as Bahrain, China, Egypt and Saudi Arabia – to further restrict and repress civil society.

Panelists built on these examples throughout the discussion, referring to significant limitations on, and prosecution of, human rights defenders under the guise of national security in their regions, including the prosecution of indigenous activists campaigning against major development projects in Chile under the Anti-Terrorist Act; human rights defenders being spied on by intelligence authorities in Cuba which consequently contributed to their murder; human rights defenders in Zimbabwe being charged for allegedly participating in a disruptive demonstration, or under the Official Secrets Act which forbids the release of information, even if that information regards human rights violations; and human rights defenders being imprisoned and labelled terrorists for voicing disagreement with the government in Swaziland. Members of the audience provided further examples, including defenders in South Korea being charged under a law that prohibits support for North Korea.

Legislation protecting the rights of defenders

A schizophrenia currently exists in many countries where authorities laud their own human rights mechanisms in the international sphere and then actively criminalise the activities of human rights defenders at home,’ said Hina Jilani. It is essential that along with a national law for the protection of human rights defenders, counter terrorism laws do not impose restrictions on those protections.

Counter terrorism laws should be developed in a manner that fights terrorism, while at the same time, respecting the legitimate work of human rights defenders,’ said Gerald Staberock of OMCT.

The panelists also stressed the importance of ensuring the rights of human rights defenders are not constrained under other laws, such as laws prohibiting criticism of the head of state, emir or the army.

Independence of the judiciary and the military

The discussion also highlighted the necessity to ensure the independence of the judiciary. In this regard, Jimene Reyes of FIDH referred to the use of the judicial system in Cuba as an ‘instrument of uncritical oppression’. Members of the audience identified the importance that the judiciary, as well as the executive, must be able to recognise and respect the legitimate activities of human rights defenders.

Similarly the importance of the separation between the State and the military was emphasised. Ms Reyes stressed the risk for human rights defenders if they are ‘considered by the military to be the enemy’.

Importance of civil society participation

While there is a clear trend of governments using counter-terrorism legislation to conflate the legitimate activities of human rights defenders with actions that threaten national security, the panelists were in clear consensus that human rights defenders and a strong and healthy civil society is essential to the stability of the State and good governance.

‘The work of human rights defenders and other civil society actors is crucial to address inequality and to promote good governance, accountability and inclusive development, all of which contribute to national security,’ said Phil Lynch of ISHR. ‘However, to ensure this is possible, it is essential to raise national and international awareness of the pitfalls of counter-terrorism legislation and the importance of civil society participation’.

The event concluded with a reflection of the need to counter the ‘rhetoric of fear’ and firmly establish that ‘the rights to peaceful assembly and of association do not encourage extremism, chaos, or violence but are, in fact, the best antidotes we have against all of these ills’.

Myself and others brought up the need to fight back in the public domain and the media against campaign to delegitimize the work of human rights defenders and show more the positive contribution their legitimate work brings to society.

[The high-level segment of the Council session has called on all States to fully implement Human Rights Council Resolution 22/6, which was led by Norway and adopted by consensus in March 2013. It urges States to ensure that ‘measures to combat terrorism and preserve national security … do not hinder the work and safety’ of human rights defenders.]

National security: Counter-terrorism laws must not criminalise human rights defenders | ISHR.

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High-level Legal Briefing and Debate on Reprisals on 20 November 2014 in Geneva

November 12, 2014

On Thursday, 20 November 2014, the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR) celebrates its 30th anniversary with the launch and discussion of two important legal reports:ISHR-logo-colour-high

The first is a memorandum of advice on the legal obligations of the Human Rights Council, its President and Bureau to combat reprisals prepared by Sir Nicolas Bratza and Prof Egbert Myjer (both formerly of the European Court of Human Rights – Egbert Myjer portrayed here on the left), together with the leading international law firm Freshfields. This is indeed a crucial area for the future of the whole human rights system as argued consistently in this blog : https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/reprisals/]

 

The second study is a comparative research report on the recognition and protection of human rights defenders under national law.

The panelists are:

The debate is moderated by Phil Lynch, Director, International Service for Human Rights

The event takes place in Room IX of the Palais des Nations, Geneva, from 15h00 to 16h15. The legal briefing is followed by ISHR’s 30th anniversary reception.

Invitation to a High-level Legal Briefing: 20 November 2014.

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Sri Lanka reprisals against human rights defenders who cooperate with the UN continue

September 17, 2014

A UN Human Rights Council mandated inquiry is currently investigating alleged violations of international humanitarian law, as well as gross and systematic human rights abuses, committed by the Government of Sri Lanka and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, which led to estimated 40,000 civilian deaths in 2009 alone. In a joint letter dated 25 August to the President of the UN Human Rights Council and to the Ambassador of Sri Lanka, a coalition of NGOs outline an alarming trend of intimidation, threats and reprisals in Sri Lanka against people engaging with UN human rights mechanisms, including the Commission of Inquiry.

This pattern has been brought many times to the attention of the UN Human Rights Council by civil society, human rights experts and States, and even by the UN Secretary-General and High Commissioner. ‘The Government of Sri Lanka has the primary responsibility for protecting people from threats, intimidation and reprisal, and must condemn all such acts immediately and unequivocally as well as take all necessary lawful steps to affirm and uphold the right of all persons to free communication with the UN, safe from hindrance or insecurity’ said ISHR Director Phil Lynch. See also on reprisals: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/reprisals/

Still on 13 September 2014, human rights defenders Mr Namal Rajapakshe and Mr Manjula Pathiraja in Sri Lanka were threatened with death in connection to their work as defence lawyers, reported Front Line on 15 September. Namal Rajapakshe and Manjula Pathiraja are leading human rights lawyers who have frequently appeared (often pro bono) in public interest litigation representing victims of human rights violations across Sri Lanka.

[On 13 September 2014, two unidentified men wearing jackets and helmets covering their faces entered the office of Namal Rajapakshe and threatened that he and Manjula Pathiraja would be killed should they appear in any more “unnecessary cases”.  This is not the first time that Namal Rajapakshe and Manjula Pathiraja have been targeted. On 4 August 2014, the human rights defenders were intimidated, along with another lawyer, while they were making representations on behalf of their clients. They were harassed by a group of thugs inside the Maradana Police station – in front of the local Inspector.]

via Sri Lanka: End reprisals against those who cooperate with the UN | ISHR.

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What will Chinese authorities have to say about Cao Shunli’s death?

March 15, 2014

Chinese Government Responsible for the Death of Cao Shunli

Today, 14 March, Amnesty International brought out a statement severely criticizing China‘s treatment of human rights defenders in need of medical care. Cao Shunli, 52, died from organ failure on Friday at a hospital in Beijing, after five months in detention. Repeated requests by Cao’s family for her to receive medical treatment for serious health problems were denied.[ https://thoolen.wordpress.com/2014/02/25/serious-concern-for-health-of-detained-human-rights-defender-cao-shunli/]

Cao Shunli’s death exposes just how callous and calculating the Chinese authorities are prepared to be to silence critics. The authorities today have blood on their hands.” said Anu Kultalahti, China Researcher at Amnesty International.  Cao Shunli was a courageous woman who paid the ultimate price for the fight for human rights in China.  She should have never been detained in the first place; but to then deny her the medical treatment she desperately needed is a most barbaric act.”

Cao had led attempts to allow activists to contribute to China’s national human rights report, ahead of a UPR review at the UN Human Rights Council in 2013 and was arrested in September as she attempted to travel to Geneva to attend a human rights training course. Her detention was seen by many as a reprisal for her wanting to contribute to a public discussion on violations in China – the charges against her concerned “picking quarrels and making trouble” The full Council is expected to hear the result of the UPR session on Wednesday 19 March. It will be interesting to see how the States and in particular China is going to react to this tragic event.

Many other NGOs and media have come out with statements about the death of Cao Shunli including Front Line (“Chinese Government Responsible for the Death of Cao Shunli“) and the International Service for Human Rights (http://www.ishr.ch/news/un-human-rights-council-must-demand-accountability-death-cao-shunli).

Posted in AI, Front Line, human rights, Human Rights Council, Human Rights Defenders, ISHR | 2 Comments »
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72 UN Rapporteurs issue exceptional joint statement calling for more cooperation and less reprisals

December 13, 2013

On the occasion of Human Rights Day, 10 December 2013, the largest ever body of independent experts in the United Nations Human Rights system urged Governments to coöperate with them, and allow human rights organisations and individuals to engage with the UN “without fear of intimidation or reprisals.” The appeal by the 72 special procedures experts stated that: “Over the years more than 160 UN member States have been visited by at least one of our human rights experts, and a total of 106 States have extended an open invitation to special procedures,”  Around 30 States have not yet accepted a visit by any of our experts while others have given only selective access.  “Unfortunately, it has become a reality that a standing invitation cannot necessarily guarantee that a visit will actually take place.” Mr. Chaloka Beyani said on behalf the group. “The work we do relies heavily on our interaction with civil society, national human rights institutions, human rights defenders, other individuals working on the ground and victims of human rights violations,” the expert explained. “It is of utmost concern that some of these become victims of intimidation and reprisals. The protection of these vital partners is of utmost importance,” he said, calling on world Governments “to respond firmly against any act which threatens them and seeks to obstruct human rights work.Reprisals are a critical challenge facing the UN system and its human rights mechanisms. “We call for the designation of a focal point on the issue of intimidation and reprisals as soon as possible,

[The United Nations human rights experts are part of what it is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures is the general name of the independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms of the Human Rights Council that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are charged by the Human Rights Council to monitor, report and advise on human rights issues. Currently, there are 37 thematic mandates and 14 mandates related to countries and territories, with 72 mandate holders. In March 2014, three new mandates will be added.]

via DisplayNews.

 

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Conclusions of Side Event on Reprisals against Human Rights Defenders

October 14, 2013

To launch its new In-Brief on reprisals against human rights defenders, the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights organized a side event at the 24th Session of the Human Rights Council. The round table discussion was presided by Prof. Andrew Clapham  The main Conclusions are: Read the rest of this entry »

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UN Human Rights Council should not be a bystander on reprisals, say two Hungarian Ambassadors

October 1, 2013

In the Monitor of the ISHR of 30 September 2013, Ambassadors András Dékány and Istvan Lakatos of Hungary  expresses an important opinion regarding the issue of reprisals against human rights defenders. As it is short here is the full text:

Read the rest of this entry »

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